In Friday’s New York Times, reporter Nicholas Fandos used the firing by President Trump of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to spread irrational fear of privatization at the scandal and corruption-plagued federal organization for veterans assistance: “V.A. Shake-Up Gives Rise to New Fears of Privatized Care.”
Fandos downplayed the problems at VA, like misleading about the long wait-times in North Carolina and Virginia hospitals and atrocious conditions at the New Hampshire veterans hospital, widespread and long-term problems that the administration has been working to reform:
President Trump’s dismissal of David J. Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs -- and the nomination of a Navy doctor with no known policy views to take his place -- has brought renewed focus to an increasingly contentious debate over whether to give veterans the option of using the benefits they earned through military service to see private doctors rather than going to government hospitals and clinics.
Fandos quickly tried to frame and isolate the Koch brothers, a libertarian group prodding for a less bureaucratic and more competent VA:
The issue, which has pitted almost every major veterans group against Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by the billionaire conservative brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, and its allies, has been at the center of months of intrigue at the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs, which is charged with caring for the United States’ 20 million veterans.
But Mr. Shulkin’s departure and the abrupt elevation of Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to the department’s top job on Wednesday have raised new fears among Democrats and groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. They worry that the Trump administration will push for a major change in veterans’ health care that they have bitterly opposed.
The groups say the end result would be disastrous, effectively bleeding to death a network of 1,700 hospitals and clinics that has taken decades to build.
Fandos has to admit that Shulkin is already using The Times to get his anti-private care message out (as if Fandos’s news article isn’t enough):
Dr. Shulkin, who was dismissed Wednesday evening by presidential tweet, argued in an op-ed article in The New York Times and in a subsequent interview on Thursday that such radical restructuring of veterans’ health care would not work.
He said that a middle path that he had tried to pursue -- investing in the department’s own health care system while offering veterans more, though not unfettered, access to private doctors -- had been rejected by Trump administration officials interested in rewarding private individuals and companies with a windfall in government money.
On cue, the Koch brothers were again cast as a fearsome villain:
But Mr. Trump seemed to renew those concerns just a short time later, promising in a speech in Ohio that he was going to ensure that veterans “have choice,” harkening back to a campaign promise to enact something like the Koch-backed plan.
Veterans advocates are especially concerned that Dr. Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy who has no real management or political experience in a large bureaucracy, will be pushed around or, worse, simply co-opted by officials in the administration set on drastically expanding private care.